Accidental Tourist

New York's not too expensive for South Africans

Maureen Girdlestone discovers that it's possible to visit the Big Apple on a budget - provided you pack a good pair of walking shoes

22 October 2017 - 00:00 By Maureen Girdlestone

The moon wasn't actually the Moon but the gleaming white Enterprise, first orbiter of Nasa's space shuttle programme on display on the lower deck of the retired World War USS Intrepid aircraft carrier - now the Sea, Air & Space Museum, dockside on the Hudson River, New York.
We must spend time in New York en-route to visit family on Long Island, my 50-something son announced. It is vibrant, ALIVE!
"Too expensive," I grumbled. Travelling on a massacred rand, hotel rooms cost a king's ransom.
Undeterred, he sourced an Airbnb apartment, two bedrooms, centrally situated in Lower Manhattan. Shabby chic at Cape Town prices. That it was a fourth floor walk-up only hit us on arrival.
"And," he announced, pleased, "there's a subway station on the next block. Buying a pass we can explore everywhere, within our budget." He was right. He didn't say "until we drop from exhaustion".
I have never walked so much. The subways seldom had escalators. Flights of stairs - down, up, down, up. Many badly ventilated, too, and hot as hell in a September heatwave. We sweltered crisscrossing New York. No wonder New Yorkers wear sneakers below suits.
"The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art), a must," he declared. "I could spend days there."
"Nah. I don't like museums," I replied.
How wrong can anyone be? Son paid his $25 entry. I was waved through. Age brings advantages.Stupendous is the only description. Beautiful, air-conditioned halls of displays. Old Masters. New Masters. Sculptures. A mesmerising Egyptian section with real mummies and rebuilt Temple of Dendur. Hours on our feet but I was ready to go back the next day. My son just smiled.
Back to our apartment, on the edge of Chinatown. With a take-away on the next block, we bought our Chinese dinner. It seemed a bargain at $5 each. Wine shop? Our restaurateur didn't understand at first. Then: "Two blocks away."
After scaling the heights to the fourth floor, onto a soft couch, our dinner was divine, washed down with a $7 bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio. We tried Foo Young the next night, but shared the generous $5 helping. Our budget was beaten.
The next morning, my son suggested the USS Intrepid. I did not complain.
To reach the Hudson River from the closest subway appeared to be only about four blocks. It was a deceitful map: there was a long slog on hot, hard pavements, dodging construction sites and dull buildings.

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